MS Walk this Saturday

Lawton_A Lawton man says the first war in Iraq changed his life forever, and he says he is convinced that his exposure to the huge chemical weapons explosion in Khamisiyah is why he suffers from a disease that has no cure - multiple sclerosis (MS).

Brian Johnson and some 21,000 Oklahomans suffer from MS, and each hour another person in the United States is diagnosed with the disease.  Johnson has suffered with MS for 16 years, and yet doctors only were able to say for sure in 2007 that the diagnosis was MS.

In 1993 Johnson began to experience double vision, followed by severe headaches and heartburn.  Now, he knows that MS will cause his mobility and neurological functions to deteriorate.  He still can walk his dog, Macy, but, that may change soon.

Two years ago, Johnson's dentist referred him to the doctor who made his diagnosis.  When the left side of his mouth became numb, Johnson says he thought he had had a stroke.  "They did spinal taps, blood work, MRIs, CAT scans," he said.  "The doctor came in and said, 'I've got good news for you, you didn't have a stroke.  The bad news is you have MS.'"

Johnson says he wasn't even sure what MS was, but soon learned that - as yet - there is no cure.  He says medicine helps, though.  "I give myself an injection every other day, and I take about 30 pills a day," he said.  He says he was forced to quit working because he couldn't handle the workload.  "When the fatigue's bad enough, I will go to sleep at eight o'clock at night and wake up at 10 the next morning."

He says the most important thing for him is to stay positive and get support from his wife.  "She's like, 'Quit being a loser, we're going to get up and do something,' and I'm like, 'Oh yeah, you're right.'"  He says it's difficult to diagnose MS because there are so many different symptoms associated with the disease.

You can help the effort to find a cure by participating in the annual MS walk in Lawton which will be this Saturday - no matter the weather.  It includes a free breakfast and lunch at the Lawton High School (LHS) Cafeteria.  Last year Oklahomans raised $325,000 for MS research.  Registration begins at 9AM at the cafeteria, and the walk begins at 10AM at Elmer Thomas Park.  In the event of snow, the walk will be held in the LHS gymnasium.